Flights were canceled due to weather for Ocean Shores Appreciation Day on Saturday, but that didn’t dampen festivities too much for the steady stream of people who came to visit and celebrate the city’s municipal facility.
“Fire the cannon. Fire!” called out teenager Xavier Smith of Redmond who had stopped by with his father to check out the ham radio tent where the Grays Harbor Amateur Radio club was communicating via radio with the Ocean Shores Pirates and the Black Rose pirate ship ready to fire its canon at the downtown IGA.
Also on hand were Gino Digangi and his son Nino, 6, newer residents of Ocean Shores using the airport to display their model flying airplanes they would like to operate at the city’s airport in the future.
Susan Conniry was there with information about Ocean Shores CERT emergency preparedness, and Fire Department staff along with representatives of the Firewise Community team were available with information on how to make the community more fire-safe.
Although a scheduled fly-in from a medical helicopter was canceled, and the past practice of giving free airplane rides had to be curtailed due to the low clouds that never seemed to lift, some of the highlights were not so weather dependant. There even was a car show courtesy of the local Beach Boyz Car Club, and later in the evening, a commercial fireworks show that a Winlock company, Jake’s Fireworks, unveiled as business enterprise using the airport for a purpose few would have envisioned when it was first constructed.
The fireworks show ran from about 7:30-10 p.m., and it was the same company that put on the Mighty 12’s fireworks show for the recent Seahawks fan weekend.
It was a great ending to Airport Appreciation Day. “Pretty amazing,” said Mayor Crystal Dingler.
“Many thanks to our career and volunteer fire personnel, particularly Fire Inspector Curt Begley, who all stood by during the show,” Dingler said. “… Also thanks to Karla Roberts who worked logistics with Jake’s and our great Airport Advisory Board who stayed late to make sure the airport was left in good order. Altogether, Airport Appreciation Day was a big success.”
The city recently completed several improvements to the airport using a combination of federal funds from the Federal Aviation Administration with additional funds from the Washington State Department of Transportation and the city of Ocean Shores. The runway has been repaved, as well as the taxiway, and there is a new windsock, rotating beacon. Also, electrical connections were updated, with Internet connections at the airport for the first time.
For Airport Appreciation Day, Bob Guy of the volunteer committee that oversees the facility showed how the internet capability allows pilots to check on the weather and traffic across the region before they fly from Ocean Shores. Pilots can hook up laptops or connect hand-held devices in the pilot’s lounge.
The biggest obstacle to the airport, however, remains a shuttle service from the facility to downtown hotels or destinations.
“We have a facility here where we are encouraging as much use as we can,” Guy said.
Ideas to increase use include opening it up as a facility for the ham radio operators and to maintain the airport for emergency services.
“What we really want to do ultimately is build a critical emergency response area if we can, utilizing what we have here,” Guy said.
One of the disappointments on Saturday was the cancellation of the Life Flight Network medical helicopter demonstration that had been scheduled before the low clouds came in during the morning. The company operates out of Astoria and is interested in using the Ocean Shores Airport as it expands its service.
Guy, a former commercial pilot himself, notes the airport also is used by the U.S. Coast Guard and would be a vital facility the event of a natural disaster like a tsunami.
“The only way to go will be up,” he said, suggesting the construction of a support center at the airport with an upper floor high enough off the ground to be able to withstand the highest possible waves.
“We might really be able to have an area here that the people can really use,” Guy suggested.
Eric Johnson, state aviation director for the Department of Transportation, oversees 135 other airports in the state. He was out looking at the improvements on Saturday and gave his approval to what the city had accomplished in keeping the facility operational.
“There is not one thing that makes an airport more or less important than the other,” Johnson said.
Airports all serve different functions, depending on where they are located, how they are maintained and what purposes they can serve. For Ocean Shores, that would primarily be tourism followed by emergency services.